In praise of our Acting COP Griffith
Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.
–– Robert Kennedy
It is early days yet, but in an environment where we are often quick to criticize, when the occasion merits it, we should not be averse to swift praise. There is much to Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith, as well as his administration of the Royal Barbados Police Force, that recommends itself to a feeling of confidence.
Mr Griffith took command of the constabulary at a time of much internal upheaval and reportedly dismal morale. A highly publicized running spat between then Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin and his deputy Bertie Hinds had seemingly split the force into two factions. So serious was that affair that it engaged the attention of the Police Service Commission and eventually led to disciplinary charges being laid against Mr Dottin.
Then there was the sorry and unprecedented saga of police officers filing lawsuits against their own, relative to promotions. And after more than 18 months, this matter has still not been adjudicated; and, as Mr Griffith has publicly attested, it has served to undermine certain aspects of the force’s administrative efficiencies.
According to intelligence gathered, much of the pre-Griffith era was also marked by rampant sick leave and an early exodus from the force of a number of senior and gazetted officers. Most disturbing, however, were the accusations of illegal wiretapping that engulfed the Police Force, which once again led to the intervention of the Police Service Commission and a change of command.
It was into this fiery cauldron that Mr Griffith was thrust; and, from most accounts, he has responded admirably. The Acting Commissioner of Police has sought to give the public the assurance that the primary role of the Police Force still remains the protection of life and property, and the maintenance of law and order. From this vantage point, and the stated perception of many others, it appeared for a time that those lofty ideals had taken a back seat as the force threatened to implode in an environment not too distant from contrived cannibalism.
Mr Griffith has also articulated and demonstrated that he will be uncompromising on matters related to police integrity and discipline. Events of this week suggest that his word in such matters is his bond. But what is particularly pleasing about the former Harrisonian and University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus graduate, is that from all reports, he is a fair leader and one willing to listen to his subordinates.
If a return to higher morale in the force can be judged by gestures, then the hitherto unheard of surprise staging of a function by the rank and file to mark his recent 60th birthday suggests an organization returning to a state of normalcy. But all is not well. More can be done to ensure that the Royal Barbados Police Force functions at its optimum and that most, if not all of Mr Griffith’s stated policies come to fruition.
In a tiny country such as Barbados, where a straight walk in any direction for five hours is likely to lead one into the sea, civil court matters involving and affecting the management of the Police Force should not be taking two years to be completed. We have a situation where Mr Griffith has had to make a series of acting appointments mainly due to the sloth of our judicial system.
We have already been damned by the Caribbean Court of Justice for the sluggish nature of our judiciary; but no one seems to be listening. Mr Griffith has publicly bemoaned the fact that that situation has frustrated his administrative processes.
The rank and file must also step up their game. There is a situation where case files are taking two, three, and as recently reported, seven years, to reach the law courts. This is reprehensible and can brook no excuse. Such situations reflect negatively on the force’s overall administration; and those officers on the ground responsible for the production of criminal and accident files would do well to reverse this age-old problem.
Recent reports of a “sickout” at a rural police station might be a reflection more of that particular station’s management, than the outbreak of some malady –– literal or figurative. But the public suffers in such scenarios and perhaps respectful engagement with the force’s hierarchy would be a better future option for any aggrieved party.
No organization is perfect, and one with such a large employment roll is likely to have more imperfections than most. But we repose our trust and confidence in Mr Griffith’s leadership.